Fundraising effort for papal visit aims to engage Philly’s Latino community

 Varsovia Fernandez, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announces the effort to encourages donations of $5 from at least 100,000 in the Latino community. (Kimberly Paynter/NewWorks)

Varsovia Fernandez, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announces the effort to encourages donations of $5 from at least 100,000 in the Latino community. (Kimberly Paynter/NewWorks)

A new fundraising effort for the World Meeting of Families, the nearly weeklong Catholic conference drawing a visit from Pope Francis, is encouraging Latinos to chip in.

Organizers of the Latino Papal Fund are hoping to raise $500,000 to help meet a $45 million goal.

But more than that, Varsovia Fernandez wants to motivate Latinos to get involved in welcoming the first Latino pope who is known to the Spanish-speaking community as “Papa Francisco.” Fernandez is CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizations behind the fundraising effort, which is soliciting donations online and via mobile.

“It’s a lot of emotion for us,” she said of the papal visit. “The least that we can do is to embrace that emotion. But instead of just saying the pope is coming, say, ‘What can we do to welcome him and what can we do to support this great effort?'”

The Latino Papal Fund hopes to move at least 100,000 Hispanics to give at least $5 by Sept. 30, a few days after the pontiff has come and gone, along with an estimated 2 million visitors. The proceeds will be donated back to the World Meeting of Families. 

Fresh from a planning trip to Vatican City with other delegates from Philadelphia, WMOF executive director Donna Crilley Farrell said event organizers are “well on track” to reach the $45 million goal, which will help cover security, transportation, housing and other logistical costs. She would not say how much has been raised with less than two months until the conference begins on Sept. 22, but WMOF announced in February it had collected $30 million in donations. 

“Every penny is so gratefully received,” Farrell said.

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